The remainder of the week passed in much the same fashion for the two of them. Their days were spent out of their hotel room; their nights were spent getting to know one another more intimately both physically and mentally. Lecter revealed little of himself, but he found Clarice had a desire to talk about things and he was a more than willing listener. She touched on her childhood, but mostly it was work she spoke about and her frustrations with Krendler and her assignments since the Buffalo Bill case. Friday they elected to eat at the hotel and stay in for the evening, Lecter having to leave before six o'clock the following morning in order to take Clarice home and get himself to the airport in time.
They were watching the late night movie, neither paying much attention to what the movie was about when Clarice brought up his leaving the next day. "You're really leaving, aren't you?" She sat up on her side, pulling the sheet around her body. She wasn't shy in front of him, for some reason she knew that she had nothing to be embarrassed about in front of him. But she wanted to talk, and she knew how easily she allowed herself to get distracted by him.
"Yes, Clarice, as much as I'd enjoy spending all my time with you it's not possible. For your well being as well as my own, you're no more suited to a life behind bars than I am."
"So, what was this then? Just something to satisfy your curiosities? To prove to yourself you could do it?" Her questions were pointed, she knew it, but she also knew she needed to know.
Lecter reached over and brushed her hair from her face, his thumb touching her lips lightly as he dropped his hand to the bed. "Hardly, Clarice." He scowled slightly, not knowing exactly where she was taking this. "Clarice, surely you realize there can be no ‘happily ever after' for the two of us. If you were wondering whether or not you'd see me again, I would have to say yes unless something happens to me. You'd obviously be notified if I were incarcerated again, so unless I was to die, you would of course see me again."
"Die?" She looked at him with wide eyes, somehow she'd never really thought about Hannibal Lecter dying. Not that she ever fooled herself into thinking he was immortal, but the thought just never came to her. "You would rather die than face prison again, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, Clarice. I will die a free man. I will never live in a cell again. I hope you can understand that decision."
She nodded slightly. "Yes, I can. You're not the type that can be kept in a cell, and I respect that. I just don't like the thought of that. Krendler would probably not tell me just to spite me."
"Let's not think about that, Clarice. Why don't we instead think of where and when we'll see one another next? You took sick days this week, correct? Do you have any vacation time coming?"
"I have a few days, Hannibal," she smiled slightly at the use of his name. "But not many, I've only been there as an agent for a few months remember."
"Yes, of course, you're right. I'll figure out something. You'll have to begin buying the New York Times Sunday paper, Clarice. Or better yet, if you have Internet access, I'll give you my user name and password. You can check the personals there yourself."
"Yes, that'd be good. I have a computer at home, Ardelia uses it too, but she'd never suspect anything. I have every right to read whatever newspapers I want."
"Of course. I guess perhaps I should have prefaced that by asking whether or not you wanted to see me again. I was presumptuous and assumed."
"How could you even ask me that knowing you're only the second person I've made love to, Hannibal?"
"Speaking of, Agent Starling, wasn't the purpose of our staying indoors tonight so that we could enjoy one another all evening?" He kissed her as he wrapped his arms around her, bringing her on top of him. "Remind me again, won't you?" His hands fell to her hips, guiding her onto him for what he assumed would be the last time for quite a while.
Clarice lay on top of him sated, her fingertips tracing over the graying tuft of hair on his chest. She tried to think of how it would be tomorrow going back to her normal life, having to face Ardelia and lie to her. She chanced a glance at his face noticing he was watching her intently, she looked away. For once he seemed to understand her need for reflection and left her with her own thoughts. She had never considered herself much of a sexual person, her one experience before Lecter had been clumsy and full of pain - both during and afterward. But somehow he made her feel desired in a way that went way beyond sex. When he kissed her, when he made love to her, when he touched her it was almost as if he wanted to consumer her. She laughed lightly at the thought of Hannibal Lecter wanting to consume her, rather ironic she mused. But that's exactly how she felt with him, as if he couldn't get enough of her. Of course it could be because he realized that neither of them knew when they'd see one another again. It was fun to think about seeing him again, but realistically she wasn't going to get her hopes up. She would go back to her regular, boring existence, living in her drab half of the duplex she shared with Ardelia while Lecter would go back to his life doing whatever it was he did as an escaped felon. She hadn't learned where he was or what he was doing, and she expected as much from him. She had given him no reason to trust her, yet at any rate. Maybe one day it would happen, but she knew not to expect it so soon. She touched his nipple lightly with her fingertip, evoking a response from him.
"The woman you spoke of before. Are you going to see her again?"
"Mm, Clarice, I'm not sure what you're trying to do by touching me that way and asking me such a serious question at the same time." He chuckled lightly as he placed his hand on top of hers. "Are you jealous, Clarice? Or are you getting possessive of me? And you, no more dates for you? Is that what you're asking me?"
She blew her bangs from her eyes. "I don't know what I'm asking, Hannibal. I guess I'm just curious. All the women I've seen press footage of from your previous life were gorgeous, glamorous, and rich. Things I'm not."
"Indeed, Clarice. Perhaps I view you through eyes different than you view yourself. Glamorous, no I'll give you that. But you certainly could be if you wanted to be, you've just never had the resources to be that way. Gorgeous, I find you very appealing, Clarice. I did the moment I first saw you in that tomb you first saw me in. Rich, you're rich in qualities that are important. You're a good person, honest, hard working, trusting, and have a big heart. As far as the female I mentioned, I imagine I will see her again yes. It's rather unavoidable in the life I have now, but I have no desire to see her socially. I didn't to begin with, but after nine plus years, I had to find out what I was missing. And being this close to you seemed farfetched, a fantasy at best."
She closed her eyes, "you have the wakeup call arranged?"
A low chuckle left his mouth. "Yes, Clarice. Get your beauty sleep." He ran his fingers through her hair and turned the TV onto some infomercial on cooking.
The morning went by too quickly, Lecter let Clarice off at the corner of her street neither wanting to risk Ardelia seeing him. He watched as she walked along the sidewalk until he could no longer see her. He touched his mouth instinctively, as if by touching it he could somehow seal in the warmth and wetness from her kiss.
The return flight to Midway seemed to take forever, Lecter wanted to get off the plane and get home. Home. He thought on that simple word wondering if he'd ever truly have a place to call home again. The drive from Midway went by quickly, having arrived mid-morning on a Saturday. He checked his mail, both postal and email, and threw his laundry in the washer while he started the shower. Later as he sat on the balcony overlooking the city he sipped a glass of Bushmill's wondering how he would see Clarice again. He faced a double-edged sword, and he wasn't sure how to pursue it. If he waited too long, she could begin to think he'd used her and rethink what had happened between them. She could then when he did contact her turn his correspondence over to Jack, though he didn't know how she could accomplish that without incriminating herself in the process. On the other hand, if he approached her again too soon he might scare her into pulling back. He finished his drink and went indoors, laying down for a nap before he had to go into work.
Clarice spent her day in bed as well, more to avoid Ardelia than for any other reason. She wasn't ready to answer her friend's questions, and so she remained in her room with the door closed until she heard Ardelia say she was leaving for the night. Clarice fastened her robe and padded out to the kitchen to get a Diet Coke and sat on the couch to watch the news. Same old, same old she mused as she flipped to TCM and decided to watch Hitchcock's The Birds.
Lecter spent the next month or so working and enjoying the sights Chicago offered. His hesitancy to invite anyone to his apartment meant many meals spent eating alone. He enjoyed the act of cooking too much to dine out often. His shifts at the hospital were something he looked forward to. He wondered if he was the only one who get a certain thrill from the blood and panic that came with Emergency Room medicine. Thoughts of Clarice passed through his mind, but he tried to push them away as quickly as they entered. There was no use dwelling on her, and the more he thought about her the more he realized there was a void in his life he wanted her to fill. He knew it was foolish for him to think like that. There would be no happily ever after for the two of them, it simply wasn't possible. Had he been smart, he would never have returned to D.C. to begin with. But he wasn't smart, at least when it came to Clarice. And now he had placed himself in her life intimately, and there was no taking that back. He missed her, and that fact bothered him. He had no time to miss someone. There was no room for someone special in his life. He was destined to a life on the run, moving places frequently and changing identities whenever necessary. What type of life was that to offer her? He avoided Susan Palmer, claiming to be busy writing an article, which she seemed to buy. It was a good thing Robert Billingsly was known for his professional writing. Even though Clarice would never know, he had no desire to see the woman socially.
He was startled when he logged on to The New York Times web site and searched the personals to find an ad he knew had to be from Clarice. It read, "A. Aapl Need to talk at the wall, two from today. I'll bring dinner. Lamb." It wasn't the names he had given her to use, but it was close enough, and so he made flight arrangements that evening to once again fly to Washington D.C. Though he doubted it was, if it was a trap, he would be prepared.
Clarice hated lying to Ardelia, and unfortunately she had spent the last six weeks doing nothing but lie. Thankfully she had been smart enough to tell a half truth to begin with when she led Ardelia to believe her mysterious friend she spent time with was a former boy friend. Her coworkers seemed to sense her need to be kept busy and obliged by giving her more paperwork than normal. Distractions. Everything about the last six weeks had been about distractions. Something to keep her mind off Doctor Lecter and what had transpired between them. She hadn't heard from him since he'd left, not that she really expected to but she had to admit it still bothered her.
She came into work the Monday after placing the ad for Lecter feeling a little embarrassed at having contacting him first. She swore she would wait until he contacted her, but she couldn't wait any longer. She wasn't sure what his reaction would be. Perhaps he had returned to his other life and forgotten about her, though she didn't think that was likely. He was a lot of things, but she didn't believe he was a liar. She hoped he would recognize the message as being from her, she had changed his codes a bit but she thought it was best it be done just in case any one was on the look out for them in all papers, not just the papers he had previously specified. She hoped he'd realize she was going there after work. With her luck, he'd show up during the day and think she stood him up. She was surprised when she got to her desk and there were a dozen white roses waiting for her. She felt herself blush from the looks she was receiving from the other agents in the office that morning. Surely this had to be a mistake; she had never received roses in her life. She read the card and it read simply "Until dinner." She stuck the card quickly in the pocket of her trousers and answered the ensuing questions vaguely. It was going to be a long day, but at least she knew now that he had received her message.
Lecter watched in the distance as Clarice went to the bench where they had eaten sandwiches before. Dressed casually as a tourist he was determined to make her wait for a while. After a quick surveillance of the area he determined she was indeed alone. He approached the bench where she sat, realizing by her body language that she was nervous. "It's a nice evening for dinner here, I'm glad the weather was able to cooperate with your plans."
"Doctor," she trailed off realizing what she had started to say. "Hannibal. I wasn't sure if you'd be able to make it. I'll pay you back for the plane ticket if it was too expensive."
"That's assuming I flew here, of course. But regardless, I wouldn't think of asking you to do that, Clarice. Surely you know me better than that."
"I do, but I wanted to offer anyway. I asked you to come here. That's a little different than coming here of your own accord." She glanced up at him appreciating his hair once more worn back in a ponytail. "I like your hair like that. But I imagine you know that and that's why you wear it like that when you're around me."
He chuckled lightly. "No, I really hadn't a clue. I always thought older men with long hair who wore these tiny ponytails looked foolish. But I must admit I like it."
"On you it looks good, distinguished. Though I can't imagine you looking any other way truthfully." She stood and walked from the bench. "Did you just get in today?"
"Yes, this morning and am leaving tomorrow. I have other commitments, unfortunately, or I'd have stayed longer. Is there something on your mind, Clarice, or were you just testing me?"
She looked at him sharply. "Testing you?"
"Yes, to see if I'd gone off and forgotten about you. Or that I'd gotten what I wanted from you and moved on. I admit I was trying to err on the side of caution with how much time I let pass before we spoke again."
"Thank you for the roses. You certainly caused quite a stir at work, the gossip mill I'm sure is in full force. Ardelia thinks I'm hiding something from her." She brushed some wisps of hair that had blown into her face. "Of course I am, but I don't like her suspecting that I am."
"Well, I figured you'd be apprehensive about having contacted me and whether or not I'd show up. So I thought I'd let you know that I was looking forward to seeing you."
Clarice walked with him along the sidewalk in front of the memorial like two tourists. "So what is it you do when you're away from me? Or aren't I allowed to ask such questions?"
Lecter paused as some people came near them, bringing his attention to the wall in front of them. Once the people had passed he turned to Clarice. "Well, I work believe it or not. Where I'm really not prepared to reveal that to you at the moment, Clarice. I work and I draw. It's really a rather lonely existence, I'm sorry you can't share in it with me and make it much less lonely."
"That's rather sad, isn't it, Doctor?" She looked at him and then looked away. For some reason she wasn't comfortable calling him by his first name here. "I mean, here we are both adults, well educated adults at that who are both at least remotely attractive and we lead rather boring and lonely lives."
"Except when we're together is that what you meant? Apart our lives are boring? Though I'd wager yours hasn't been so boring the last couple of months, trying to hide what you've done. And mine certainly isn't boring, life as a fugitive isn't boring. Mundane perhaps, but not boring. I always have to be on my toes and aware of my surroundings."
"Yes, that's sort of what I meant. I had more fun with you in those four days together than I have had in years. I work and read, I turn down dates because I have no desire to lead anyone on, and I can't cook so unlike yourself and Ardelia I can't cook my way out of boredom."
He kissed the top of her head, his thumb gently touching her cheek. "I'm sorry you think that, though I'm glad that I was able to show you a good time. That was my intention all along, whether our relationship took the turn it did or not."
"I know that was your intent." She pulled away from him and walked to a nearby bench, sitting as she watched him look at her curiously. When he walked towards the bench and sat next to her her back stiffened slightly.
"What's on your mind, Clarice? Obviously you didn't ask me to come here to look at this wall." He shifted slightly on the bench so he could watch her. She looked nervous, apprehensive, and very unsure of herself. It upset him that he somehow made her feel that way, wishing he knew how to help her feel safe around him.
She looked at him then turned her gaze away from him, looking at the ground around her feet. "I'm pregnant." She slumped slightly with the admission. She hadn't said the words aloud yet, even after the doctor confirmed that was indeed what her trouble was. She was embarrassed, frightened, and excited all at the same time. She had never pictured herself as a mother, but she knew that she'd be a good one. Finally, she'd have something that would belong to her, something that would make her feel like she belonged.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com